Community survey gives high marks to public library

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

A community survey done for the Wood County District Public Library turned out to be a love letter.

“Levels of satisfaction were pretty high across the board on all the services we surveyed,” said Shannon Orr, whose public policy class at Bowling Green State University conducted it. “There is very high customer satisfaction for the Wood County Library system, and they would be willing to support the next levy.”

That was true even among the majority who only use the library a few times a year. They still felt that the library was an important community service.

Orr presented the results to the library’s Board of Trustees Monday. The library’s levy, which brings in $1 million a year, about 40 percent of the budget, will need to be renewed November, 2020.

Orr added, that “children’s events were cited over and over again very highly.” On the other hand, “the level of dissatisfaction is almost nonexistent.”

“We do a lot of these,” she said. “I run more than 100 community projects with my classes, and this level of satisfaction is very unusual.”

Orr’s students sent surveys to 2,000 registered voters in the library’s service area. They got 346 back, or 17.3 percent. That’s an adequate response rate. An online survey with identical questions was sent to about 1,500 email addresses the library had on file. Those responses matched the random sample, but were not figured into the results.

The answers to the open-ended questions included in the online survey were provided to the library.

People did cite a few areas of improvement. Given the aging population, more large print books are needed. Also, people wanted better guidance on what the library offers, whether books or programs. Arts and craft programs would be nice. And the library needs “freshening up,” particularly the carpet on the stairs.

“I might have written that myself,” said Library Director Michael Penrod. He said he’s also ready gotten some carpet samples, and is consulting with a decorator.

He said he still thinks of the facility as the “new library,” but it has been 15 years since the expanded and renovated library opened, and is showing its age.

Customer services was singled out both for accolades and a few complaints, but was overall a strong point.

“What came out is that the people are being served by people who really care,” Trustee Becky Bhaer said.

The library is seen as more than a place that loans out books and materials, Orr said. People see it as a community center. A safe, clean, warm, inviting place.

“No single person talked about not being welcome,” Orr said.

If you’re looking for a place to hold a meeting or have a class, there aren’t a lot of other options,” Trustee Ellen Dalton said.

“We realize that library is a very loose term for us,” said Brian Paskvan, president of the trustees. For some the atrium in the main library is “a great music hall.”

Children’s program serve the needs for families, and the Walbridge Branch recently held a Wii Bowling tournament.

All this goes to show that the predictions of the demise of libraries was premature. “The library is very relevant in 2018,” Orr said. “No one talked about, ‘I don’t need the library.’”

Orr praised the board for explicitly asking what needed to be improved. Some other organizations don’t.

“I want that,” Penrod said. “I’m so close to the entire process that I need other people to say this is where you dropped the ball.”

While noting a few fumbles, though, what the survey showed, Orr said, is “you all are doing a fabulous job. This is a great library, filling a need and is well respected.”

The board is now ready to start formulating its new five-year strategic plan in hopes of continuing to keep their customers satisfied.

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